One of my favorite places around here is Hershey’s Mill Rd. Such a cool place. So many great old farm houses, barns, and the road is an old country kind of road that meanders.
This weekend on Sunday we went up Hershey’s Mill to Greenhill Road. We had a car behind us so I couldn’t get a photo but it looked like the funky mill property (and I mean that in a good way not bad FYI) on the corner with the sort of “gate house” garage entrance into the property is being restored! It looks like it obviously changed hands. This is very exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens. I love historic preservation in action! It would be cool if someone like Jeff Devlin had a hand in the restoration, but I know nothing…but that is what I would do….
I do not know who purchased it but all of the overgrown everything is gone and it has been stripped down and you can actually see the house for the first time (or the first time for me.) Compass the real estate company said it was a barn on their old listing…but this was a mill…. the Hershey’s Mill. How cool.
I never knew who lived there. I remembered the last owner did not want East Goshen to mess with dam (now drained or breached or whatever the term is.) Sometimes it looks like East Goshen is working on it when you drive by, but mostly not. I guess it is supposed to end up some sort of nature preserve thing and they are dealing with the flooding?
A local official called it the toughest decision he had had to make in three decades, one that East Goshen Township, Chester County, has been confronting for several years.
Tuesday night, the board of supervisors voted to breach the town’s two dams, both deemed potentially dangerous by the state – choosing financial considerations over the fervor of some residents who wanted to preserve what they consider landmarks of their town.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said years ago that the recreational dams, which have been part of the town in various iterations for centuries, could fail during a major rainfall. Township supervisors had to decide how to meet new state standards.
Supervisors told the 80 or so people gathered at the Goshen Fire Company banquet hall that they had to make the best decision for all the township’s 18,000 residents.
I have never read a comprehensive history of Hershey’s Mill, but that community for seniors with a golf course has a brief history of Hershey’s Mill on a website. This place seems like it was empty for a couple of years which is a shame because I think it’s magical.
I know whomever bought it had to clear overgrown trees and what once were shrubs to restore the place. That is common sense. I just hope the garages (the covered entrance) are going to be saved and restored too. It’s all part of the charm.
“*Update: Hershey Mill was converted in the early 1960’s by a wealthy Californian. Lucille Ball came to one of the parties he held when the mill was newly renovated. He died soon after the renovation – enroute back to California. The Estate was in probate for years to figure out the ownership. The original wooden wheel was removed and reportedly put in pieces under the brick floor on the ground floor. The three car garage contained chauffeur’s quarters and two 1961 Imperials. The Paddock Pool was one of the first in-ground pools in the area.“
So it was owned once upon a time by a wealthy Californian? And Lucille Ball coming here to a party makes sense with something else a neighbor who is a lifetime resident told me:
“When I was a little girl, Grace Kelly and her family would come out from the city to spend time at the mill house as their country home! They vacationed in the summer in Ocean City, NJ but spent many days and weekends at Hershey’s Mill.“
Anyway…if anyone has history to share, I am all ears. I love this place and I hope it becomes a happy and vibrant home (with a garden) once again. This place is a local treasure.
I am also delighted to have something fun to write about versus the past three months.
Here is hoping East Goshen actually finishes the park or whatever they are supposed to create.
Today I picked up some things from a storage locker sale I had purchased. One thing was a limited edition book published in 1965 when I was a year old. Philadelphia: The Unexpected City by Laurence Lafore and Sara Lee Lippincott. The publisher was Doubleday. It was a copy of the “Philadelphia Edition.”
I don’t think too many people would be as excited to see this book as I was. But it was a book I remember people having in their homes when I was growing up, especially people that lived in Society Hill because there was so much of Society Hill in the book.￼
And there’s one thing that’s a picture of when they were raising the houses around Front Street to basically put in the highway. And I remember when they were doing all of that because it took a while to build and my mother’s friend Margery Niblock the artist had done a wood cut of it that I have the artist’s proof of￼￼.
So again, unless you live there during this time this probably wouldn’t mean anything to you. But it means something to me because there are so many pictures in this book of what Society Hill looks like when people like my parents came in and bought house is dirt cheap and started to restore them.
And the restoration of Society Hill is still a historic preservation triumph even with all of the houses that were in such bad condition they had to be demolished.￼￼
I guess that’s why sometimes I wonder why municipalities let people say “Oh we can’t possibly fix this, it has to be taken down!”￼ I look at what happened then when I was a kid, and the technology wasn’t as advanced and so on and so forth, yet the historic preservation actually happened and restoration actually happened.
So I wish people would look at examples like this, and then look more towards preservation where they live. It is possible. Communities just have to want it. And if communities want it, they need to make that known to local government.￼￼
People have to realize you can save pieces of the past and people will love them and will live in them.
This section of Philadelphia when I was growing up was a sea of construction and scaffolding. I remember the contrast of going to neighborhoods where other people we knew lived and then coming back to our own. But it was exciting to see.￼￼￼ Even then.
Hopefully someday when I am no longer around, someone else will happen upon what is now my copy of this book and love it as much as I do.￼
It has been a crazy decade chock-full of so much. I wasn’t sure what my last post of the year was going to look like until I started looking at some of my photos of houses that had captured my interest and fancy in the past decade.￼
So in all of the houses I have looked at in this decade I have decided to remain true to Chester County today and give you my three favorites.
Ironically my three house picks for the decade￼￼ are not traditional 18th century Chester County Farmhouses, but three 19th-century stone houses of a certain era￼.
Loch Aerie on Lancaster Avenue in Frazer in East Whiteland Township enters the next decade with a guaranteed and brilliant new lease on life. She is being restored to her former glory, and will have an adaptive reuse that will ensure her place in architectural history for decades to come.
Old stone house Francis Ave, Berwyn, Easttown.
Next on my list is a house I was reminded of this morning. I know nothing of her pedigree. It is the great stone house on Francis Avenue in Berwyn.￼￼￼￼￼
My great friend (and Chester County historian and artist) Catherine Quillman and I stumbled upon this beauty in 2016 one fall afternoon.￼
We took a wrong turn somewhere after leaving Jenkins Arboretum and all of a sudden we were on Francis Avenue in front of this house. And before anyone flips out, we did not trespass. I had a camera with a zoom lens with me and I took photos from the street. This house captured my fancy for a number of reasons, including the fact that the stonework reminded me a lot of Loch Aerie.￼￼
I know absolutely nothing of the history of this house other than its 19th century and in Easttown Township . I think it probably has a name (possibly according to a 1912 atlas it appears it was maybe called “Rhydlyn” home of James G. Francis, whose sister in law I believe was famed local photographer Lucy Sampson according to census records from the early 20th century and according to the census she lived there for a while!) I don’t know if it is listed on any national registries or even a state or local registry.￼ I couldn’t find it listed anywhere. (I am told it is mentioned HERE.)
￼It strikes me as a similar vintage to Loch Aerie. I also do not know the current ownership of the home but I am told it is being preserved as part of some kind of a development. I am also told that the glorious slate roof is no longer which I can’t say surprises me because old slate roofs are incredibly expensive to maintain and it’s a lost art of the craftsmanship of roof building. There are very few slaters left.￼￼￼
My last house which captured my fancy a great deal in this last decade is the Joseph Price house in West Whiteland Township.￼
Here is a wonderfullittle slide show presentation on prezi. This house is historically listed. It was built in 1878 and altered in 1894 by the house namesake inhabitant at the time. It was altered from a Gothic style to a Queen Anne style.
￼￼I was also told in the 1990s it was separate apartments inside and there were also cottages around it which were rented out as well.
In the 1950s and 60s there was a large barn there that was a sale barn for cattle run by Bayard Taylor —a blog reader told me that. He knew because his mother did bookkeeping for that business while she was in college.
This house is not completely deserted I am told there is a caretaker who still lives there. However, this house has an uncertain future at best and nobody seems to know what will happen to it. Which is a shame because it’s very cool.￼
So as we lift a glass one last time to toast a crazy tumultuous decade everywhere, let us think of our future and historic preservation. There are so many cool houses like this throughout Chester County from all eras of time￼.
Less development. More land and structure preservation and adaptive reuse. That’s my final wish for Chester County for 2019.
Please do not trespass on these properties. Either get permission to wander around or look from the street.
This structure is a historic asset…or it should be.
It’s the 18th century farmhouse that is part of the Clews & Strawbridge property on Lancaster Avebue in Malvern/Frazwer .
Who owns Clews & Strawbridge now?
I find this demolition by neglect disgraceful, but then again I find most of the rotting historic properties in Chester County and in East Whiteland disgraceful because it doesn’t have to be this way!
The fencing is new and I have to ask do they think a stockade fence is going to make people forget what a hot mess the entire property looks like most of the time? COME ON.
Whoever you are, it’s time to deal with the house. Can it be sold? Is it empty? Is it full of stuff? There are so many stories yet no one seems to know what is going on so can they just be straight with residents and historical architecture buffs?
The Eagle Tavern is Chester County History. Love that after centuries (literally!) they are still standing! It was built in 1702 and the liquor license dates from 1727. We weren’t even a country yet officially! The current building was built over the original structure circa 1799 according to what I was told. It’s survived what could have been a devastating fire in 2010 that was tragically accidental.
It closed for a while when the old owners decided to sell. In 2018 it opened under new ownership. I wrote about it then (click HERE). PA Eats also wrote about it back then (click HERE.)
If I have a story right before the current owner as of 2018 it was owned by the original family that had it for decades and then maybe the people that owned Carmines up the street had it for a while?
Receiving a liquor license in 1727, the Eagle Tavern was once a hangout for pre-Revolutionary War outlaws the Doan brothers. Located at the fork of two main thoroughfares, it’s been run by owner Lois Jones and her family since the country’s Bicentennial in 1976. Lois can be seen today greeting guests and serving up hearty fare in the restaurant’s casual, friendly atmosphere.
The Eagle Tavern has a colorful history that I would love to learn more about. (Some of it is on their website.)
I used to go to the tavern under the old owners mostly for lunch over the years. I didn’t live in Chester County until a few years ago so back in the day it was truly a haul to get there.
When the Eagle Tavern first reopened in 2018 we went a few times. The first time was March, 2018. That is when I wrote my initial review. At that time the meal was awesome and we really enjoyed it. We went back a few other times later in 2018 and didn’t really like it as much. I never updated my review, I just went other places. The problem was the place was inconsistent. It got to be that it was never really horrible but it wasn’t so fabulous either.
So until today, we hadn’t been there in forever, literally. We had wondered for a while if they were still open because the parking lot was always empty. Then recently a friend told me that they were under more appropriate management, better management and they were doing their own beer and other things.
So this afternoon after taking a detour after attending a funeral, my husband and I decided to go back for a late lunch.
I am so glad we did! And I hope all of you go back to the Eagle Tavern, especially if you haven’t been there in a while!
The difference is remarkable! The inside has been further refined without losing its wonderful historic tavern feel. The menu has been revamped and is like a more modern version of what it originally was years ago. And the bathrooms have been done over and so has the staff. We had amazing table service today and an awesome lunch!
I know it sounds dumb, but I have been on the hunt for a traditional, old-school club sandwich. I don’t know what it is about that sandwich but that is a summer sandwich to me. Probably because growing up when you went to certain clubs and places that was always on a summer menu.
The sandwich was amazing. My husband enjoyed his lunch too and said that their home brewed beers were nice! Here are screenshots of the lunch menu:
Here is the link to all of the menus: CLICK HERE. The Eagle Tavern has upped their game considerably and remained true to the history. I like that they do not pretend to be other than what they are. And it’s lovely inside. Anyone can buy architectural salvage to dress up a new build restaurant, but you can’t imitate centuries of history.
We actually took the time to speak with the manager. Chester County residents who have lived out here a long time you will know his name immediately – Chip Nye. Yes, the old manager for years came back! And the difference is remarkable! And he’s excited to be there and his energy is echoed by the rest of the staff.
The Eagle Tavern is running again like a well-oiled machine, and the menu works and is well-prepared coming out of the kitchen and the staff is amazing. I actually look forward to future meals there. And I think it looks better than ever inside which is why I snapped a few photos.
Anyway I encourage folks to go and check it out. They also have music some of the time.
An old school tavern is so much better than a Disneyesque modern version of a pub. The folks from the Ship Inn should go check it out. The Ship is also tradition around here, but they need a makeover in parts of their restaurant, and the kind of aesthetic makeover at the Eagle Tavern and feel of it would also work at the Ship Inn. No, not to create twinsies taverns, I just think it would be good inspiration. Especially in that big dining room that screams 1970s banquet hall.
(Now don’t get out the pitchforks at me because I said the Ship Inn needs a makeover. It’s a cool place but Robert Irvine needs to visit and Restaurant Impossible is looking for places.)
Back to the Eagle Tavern: Today was lovely, look forward to future visits! Let me know what you think if you go!
The photo above has me in the center. Circa 1976- 1977. It has just been too long that sadly, I don’t remember the exact date.
Where am I? At one of my favorite historic sites on earth. Historic Harriton House in Bryn Mawr. I think technically, my friends and I at the time, beat Chef Walter Staib into the kitchen there by a few decades.
When we first moved to the Main Line from Society Hill, I missed the history and old houses of Society Hill. Yes, I was kind of obsessed by old houses even then. So neighbors introduced our family to historic Harriton House. And as a related sidenote, Historic Harriton House is a remarkable story of preservation. I urge everyone to take the time to go visit. The site is a little slice of heaven.
Before we moved from the city to suburbia, I also did something kind of historically minded for a kid.
At 11, I was probably the youngest volunteer tour guide the Park Service ever had in Society Hill. I gave tours of the Todd House and Bishop White House. In Colonial garb with a little mob cap.
But this is just something I have always loved since I was a kid. Our history, our architecture, our old houses.
I am not a new house person. I am a preserve the old house person. It’s just the way I am made. I am a realist and I don’t think every old house can be saved, but I think a lot more can be saved then are actually being saved.
Whenever I have these conversations with anyone about historic preservation, I go back to my childhood in Society Hill. And the reason is simple: that area was a total slum when people like my parents as newlyweds bought wrecks of old houses in Society Hill for peanuts from the redevelopment authority in Philadelphia.
My parents and their friends restored these houses with architectural details and hardware and windows and woodwork from houses that were too far gone to save. And as kids, a lot of the time we went with our parents when they were visiting these wrecks of houses to see what they could salvage out of them. And salvaging then wasn’t so much a big business as it was sort of a neighbor helping neighbor collaborative. People would give you the stuff out of the houses being torn down. It was a very different time.
It was through these expeditions that I learned about things like shutter dogs. Busybody mirrors. Box locks and more. The details of historical architecture which have traveled with me throughout my life.
This is where my love of old houses began. And it has been a lifelong affair.
A lot of people don’t like my opinions. And I’m sorry they don’t share my love of old houses and history. But as Americans we have a magnificent history. And we can’t just keep bulldozing it away.
I got a comment into my blog today concerning the historic rotting house you see above. It is located on the Clews and Strawbridge property in Malvern on Lancaster Avenue in East Whiteland.
Here is the comment:
I remember when the now abandoned house next to Clews and Strawbridge was occupied by the Clews family (1970). Their daughter Sylvan was one of my closest friends. The home was filled with art and antiques, as Sylvan’s father, Mancha, was the son of a noted sculptor, and her mother Margaret ( a member of the family that founded the Strawbridge and Clothier department store), was a painter. I lost touch with Sylvan, but was somewhat amused that when I met my current husband years later, he was living almost directly across the street from that house, in Westgate Village. Now, I pass that house on my way to work almost every day, and often think about what it was like when the family lived there (and I wonder what creatures might currently be in residence, from bats to squirrels?)
This is another house that is part of Chester County’s architectural history that is just being allowed to rot.
Apparently in this county they can only build new these days. And isn’t that pathetic?